TWINNING AT POZIERES
I must say it was a proud moment for me as I stood beside the Mayor of Pozieres, Bernard Delattre, to witness the signing of the twinning arrangement between Pozieres and the northern Sydney municipality of Ku-ring-gai. This was my initiative, first put to the NSW Anzac Council where it was basically disregarded, certainly not embraced as I’d hoped and then to the Mayor of Ku-ring-gai given the areas connection with Pozieres with the 18th Battalion. In the local Gordon Church (St John’s Anglican Church) is the 18th Battalion’s Pozieres Cross, erected after the battle and returned to Australia in the early 1920’s.
My connection with the village of Pozieres goes back to 1994, now twenty years ago. Following the reinterment of the Australian Unknown Soldier in the War memorial in Canberra, I felt a strange and unexpected connection with the Western Front and Australian operations there. In May 1994, I took the ferry to Calais, picked up a hire car and with John Laffin’s book A Guide to Australian Battlefields of the Western Front and two Michelin maps, set off. Alas, all I saw were vast wheat and beet fields, nothing anywhere to suggest a war had been through and no information signs or interpretative centres to help me.
On my first night, I found myself in Pozieres and from that moment was mesmerised by this tiny village and the awful slaughter of young Australians that had taken place in the fields around here; 23,000 casualties in six weeks of fighting. Needing to know more, I began a research quest, read Volume III of Bean’s History and other primary and secondary sources on the battle and the months of struggle and death that eventuated here.
So to stand first before the First Division Memorial and lay a wreath from the people of Ku-ring-gai and then witness the signing of the bi-lingual Memorandum of Understanding not only in the presence of the Mayor, but representatives from the Australian Embassy in Paris, particularly Brigadier Scott Clingan, was very special. If we can draw closer to this and other French villages that were so important and familiar to our diggers, to reach out in as many ways as possible and involve French and Australian children in remembering, I think I have left some small legacy and made an important and enduring contribution.